The Med Diva

An insider's guide to Medicare Part D and more

Archive for the category “Medicare Marketing Tactics”

Countdown to Medicare Part D Open Enrollment: Day 5

Open Enrollment for 2012 begins on Saturday, October 15, and ends on Wednesday, December 7, 2011.

Day 5: Beware of Medicare…Medicare scams that is, this time of year

When Medicare Part D first started in 2006, professional scammers immediately jumped on the bandwagon. They started by devising clever ways to trick seniors into giving them money or other information that would allow the scammers to access their bank accounts. For example, in the “$299 Ring” Scam (see video), callers would identify themselves as Medicare employees and ask for checking account information in order to “sell them a Part D drug plan for $299.”  Other scammers called Medicare recipients and told them they would deposit money into their bank accounts if they provided their account numbers. They would also ask them for their Social Security numbers and threaten them by saying they would lose their Medicare coverage if they did not provide this information.

Fortunately, most people were leery of the callers and notified either the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or other local authorities. Many of the calls were traced to phone numbers outside  the United States.

According to CMS, you should always call your local police if you receive a call from an unknown person and are asked to provide personal information over the telephone. Here are some other helpful tips from CMS to keep top of mind, especially during the Open Enrollment period, when professional scammers know you may be searching for a new Medicare plan:

  • Protect your Medicare number. This number is as important as your Social Security number, credit card information, computer passwords, etc. Never give your card or number to anyone—not only is it illegal for someone else to use your card or number, it can lead to identify theft. And if you card is lost or stolen, report it right away to Social Security.
  • If you don’t trust, don’t talk. Only give out your personal information to people or organizations you trust, such as your doctor, trusted friend or family member, attorney, accountant, government organization such as Social Security, or a Medicare-approved plan. (Once you decide to enroll in a Medicare plan—or you decide to switch plans—you will need to provide your Medicare number to the plan.)
  • Never join a plan over the phone—unless you initiate the call.
  • Know the marketing no-no’s. There are many things that Medicare prescription drug plans and the people who represent them cannot do. For example, they can’t:
    • Charge you a fee to join a plan
    • Come to your home uninvited to try to sell you a plan
    • Offer you cash, free meals, or other gifts while trying to sell a plan to you
    • Enroll you into a plan over the phone unless you call them and specifically ask to be enrolled
    • Ask you for payment over the phone or Internet (they must send you a bill)
    • Try to sell you other products other than the plan you agreed to hear about
    • Try to enroll you in a plan during an educational conference or health fair

If you think a plan or plan representative has broken the rules, or you believe you have received a phone call or e-mail from a professional scammer, you should report the incident to Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227);  TTY/TDD: 1-877-486-2048.  Not only will you help CMS to alert others to the scam or tactics, but you will also be playing a very vital role in reducing Medicare fraud.

Tomorrow, I’ll give you some more tips on helping to reduce Medicare fraud, waste, and abuse.


Countdown to Medicare Part D Open Enrollment: Day 10

Open Enrollment for 2012 begins on Saturday, October 15, and ends on Wednesday, December 7, 2011.

Day 10: It pays to shop around during the Open Enrollment period

For the past week I have been sharing some helpful tips for you to use while researching your Medicare Part D plan options during Open Enrollment. After reading the results of a recent poll conducted for the National Council on Aging (NCOA), however, I hope you are heeding this advice and actually shopping around!  

According to the survey, many Medicare beneficiaries are unaware that they can or even should do their due diligence and compare Medicare plans. In fact, 46 percent of respondents have never bothered to shop for better Medicare coverage! The reasons stated are varied:

• 41 percent said they thought they couldn’t save money by changing plans (they’re wrong!)
• 35 percent said that Medicare is confusing (they’re not wrong!)
• 16 percent said they just didn’t understand Medicare at all (I can sympathize!)

Being enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan is very similar to owning a car. When you own a car, you check it on a regular basis to make sure it’s running well and getting good gas mileage. Over the years, as the car starts to cost more money in maintenance, you shop around to compare prices, gas mileage rates, safety data, and other features in order to get the best value. Oftentimes you can find the best deal with the same brand—for example Honda or Ford—just by purchasing a newer model of your old car.

It’s really not much different with your Medicare prescription drug plan. Every year at this time you should check your plan to make sure your medications will still be covered the following year, and that your monthly premium isn’t going to increase more than you would like. If it looks like your plan is going to cost you more money in the new year, that’s your signal to go shopping. If you’re otherwise happy with the company that manages your plan, start with them first, as they may have another plan that better meets your health and financial needs.

To lower your drug costs, look for specific features in a Part D plan

Many plans offer online tools to help you compare plan costs and features.

Because all Medicare plans must follow strict guidelines set by the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), there are only limited ways they can help members save on prescription drug costs. For example, unlike General Motors or Sears, Medicare plans can’t hold a clearance sale on medications or use any popular marketing tactics such as a two-for-one sale or buy-one-get-one-free offer. However, there are several things you can look for in a plan if you want to maximize your savings, and many plan offer online tools on their websites to help you narrow down your search.

Tune in tomorrow for a list of things to look for and questions you should always ask when comparison shopping for a Medicare prescription drug plan!

Countdown to Medicare Part D Open Enrollment: Day 16

Open Enrollment for 2012 begins on Saturday, October 15, and ends on Wednesday, December 7, 2011.

  Day 16: Let the Medicare Part D Marketing Begin

If you’re currently enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP), Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, or Medicare Advantage with Prescription Drug Coverage (MA-PD) plan, you should have already received your Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) documents. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires plans to ensure that current members receive the ANOC/EOC by September 30, 2011. If you haven’t received your documents yet, call your plan immediately to make sure they have your correct address on file.   

The ANOC and EOC will tell you what your new monthly premium and annual deductible (if any) will be for 2012. They will also procide information about the drugs covered and the co-payments or coinsurance amounts that you will pay in each stage of your benefit.

Even if you are satisfied with your plan in 2011, you still need to review your plan options for 2012

It’s important to carefully review your ANOC and EOC as soon as possible to determine if you want to stay with your current plan or make changes for the coming year. All plan sponsors must contract on a yearly basis with the Medicare program, which permits changes to formulary lists (the list of drugs covered by the plan), restriction and limitation requirements, monthly premium payments, and co-payments or coinsurance. So, for example, if your plan no longer covers a drug that you take on a regular basis, or if the monthly premium has increased more than you expected, you may want to look for a plan that better meets your health and financial needs.

If you do decide that you need to change plans, remember you can only enroll in a plan or switch plans between October 15 and December 7.  After December 7, you will not be able to change yourMA,MA-PD, or PDP plan for 2012 unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Starting October 1, 2011, plan information for 2012 will be available on the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare’s website. MA and PDP plan sponsors can also start marketing their plans on October 1, so expect to get inundated with marketing materials over the next two months. Please keep in mind that Medicare plan sales agents can not do the following: 

  • Come to your house without an invitation from you
  • Approach you in parking lots, hallways, or lobbies
  • Offer you a gift worth more than $15 to join their plan
  • Provide free meals at Medicare sales presentations
  • Try to sell you a plan at educational events and seminars

Over the next few weeks I will be giving you lots of helpful tips, money-saving suggestions, and important things to consider when comparing Medicare Part D coverage.  I’ll also cover Special Enrollment Periods, Medicare star ratings, the Coverage Gap, and other Medicare topics that may not make a lot of sense to you right now, but are nonetheless important to understand in order to make the most of your benefit.



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